Stanford University Library's Technology Chalk Talk on October 19, 2006 featured Karl Fogel discussing the history of copyright, and its implications for the ownership of information today.
Copyright is derived from a 16th-century English censorship law, later transformed by publishers and the English Parliament into a monopoly distribution right. This history differs in significant ways from our modern conception of copyright, which holds that it was invented to give writers and artists an economic basis for creativity. The actual story is somewhat more complex than that, and understanding it is increasingly important today, as the economics of distribution are undergoing radical change thanks to the Internet.
This talk provided a mid-level overview of copyright's history, with pointers to further reading, followed by a brief survey of alternative economic bases for creation and distribution, and plenty of time for Q&A about what this all means for librarians and others in the information sciences. A short film that Karl made regarding the public's perception of copyright was also shown. This film can be accessed at http://questioncopyright.org/node/10 .
Karl Fogel has been active as a free/open-source software developer since the early 1990's, and more recently as a copyright reform activist. He is the author of two books, available both in bookstores and online under open copyrights: "Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project", published by O'Reilly Media in 2005, and "Open Source Development with CVS", published by Coriolis OpenPress in 1999 and now in a third edition from Paraglyph Press. He is currently working on a book about the history and consequences of copyright. For more, please see his Web site at http://questioncopyright.org
Shinjoung Yeo, communication bibliographer at Stanford Library, recorded the talk using a Panasonic PV-GS150 camcorder.